For Grades 9-12 , week of Jan. 06, 2020

1. Chief Justice

The chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is the highest ranking member of the federal judiciary system. The chief justice has significant influence choosing what cases the court hears each year and leads the discussion of those cases among the other eight justices on the court. The chief justice also presides at impeachment trials, and in that role, current chief justice John Roberts will be in the spotlight when the U.S. Senate takes up the impeachment articles passed against President Trump. In his annual Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary, Roberts offered insight on how he would approach that task. “We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity and dispatch,” Roberts wrote. “As the New Year begins, and we turn to the tasks before us, we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice under law.” The impeachment of President Trump continues to cause great debate in the U.S. Congress. The House passed two articles of impeachment but has not passed them on to the Senate for trial due to concerns about how the trial will be conducted. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read stories about the differences between House and Senate members about how the trial should proceed. Use what you read to write an editorial offering your view on how the trial should be conducted in the Senate.

Common Core State Standards: Writing opinion pieces on topics or texts, supporting a point of view with reasons and information; reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it.

2. Gum Breakthrough

Archaeologists look for many clues when trying to figure out how ancient people lived. But few would have predicted that chewing gum would lead to a breakthrough discovery. Yet that’s what happened in the European nation of Denmark when archaeologists were exploring a site on the nation’s fourth largest island. A hunk of Stone Age birch pitch — which ancient people chewed like gum — yielded samples of genetic DNA that revealed a wealth of information about the person who chewed the pitch 5,700 years ago. From tests on the DNA, scientists were able to learn that the person was a girl who had blue eyes, dark skin, dark hair and couldn’t digest dairy products, CNN News reported. They also learned her last meal included hazelnuts and duck, which probably were a common part of the local diet. Scientists said the DNA had been preserved because the birch pitch had been sealed in mud. It was in “absolutely phenomenal” condition, one said. Archaeological discoveries provide scientists with new information about how ancient people lived. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about an archaeological discovery. Use what you read to write a letter to the editor summarizing the importance of the discovery.

Common Core State Standards: Reading closely what a text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; producing clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization and style are appropriate to the task.

3. Tobacco Age Raised

Community and government leaders have tried many things to persuade teens and pre-teens not to smoke cigarettes. Now the federal government is taking a nationwide approach by raising the age for buying tobacco products to 21. As part of a broad spending bill signed by President Trump, “it is now illegal for a retailer to sell any tobacco product — including cigarettes, cigars and e-cigarettes — to anyone under 21” the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced. Restrictions on tobacco sales have long been pushed by both Republicans and Democrats, along with a wide range of health organizations. Nineteen states have raised the minimum age to buy tobacco products to 21 on their own, but the new law makes the age limit national policy. Informing people about the age change for tobacco products will require a wide marketing and communications campaign. With a partner, find and closely read stories about how marketing companies use television, the Internet and other resources to communicate about issues. Then design a marketing campaign for television to inform people about the age change for buying tobacco products. Brainstorm an idea for a theme to tie the ads together and write outlines for three ads. Share ideas with the class and discuss.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; integrating information presented in different media or formats to develop a coherent understanding of a topic; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.

4. Hands for Gavin

The process known as “3D printing” got its start (and name) from the use of inkjet printers to make three-dimensional items layer by layer. Today the computer-based technique is used in a wide range of career fields, and especially in medicine. “3D printing” is being used to create personalized implants, for example, or to design tools for use in surgeries. In the state of Tennessee, “3D printing” has even been used to create a pair of hands for an 11-year-old boy. Gavin Sumner of the city of Clarksville was born without most of his hands and is also missing a part of his left foot. He struggled to perform basic life tasks until the president of a local “3D printing” company decided to get involved. “It takes a village,” said Anthony Economos, president of Bedstone Creative. Working with an online organization that makes 3D limbs for people, Economos and his team created a functioning set of hands Gavin can operate just by flexing his wrists. “Now I can grasp things so much easier with one hand,” he said. “They've been life changing for sure.” The growing use of “3D printing” in different fields is an example of technology being employed in new ways to help people. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about another new use of technology. Use what you read to prepare a short oral report detailing how the technology is being used and why that is an improvement for people who are using it.

Common Core State Standards: Conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic; citing specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions.

5. Oh-So-Kind!

The kindness of strangers can be a powerful thing. A couple in the European nation of England found that out recently when they almost made a very costly mistake. The couple were cleaning out the house of a dead relative and dropped off several boxes at a waste and recycling center. Little did they know one of the boxes contained 15,000 pounds in British money — nearly $20,000 in American dollars. And that was when the kindness kicked in. The sharp-eyed employee who discovered the money turned into detective Sherlock Holmes to find out who the money belonged to. First he and his colleagues reviewed surveillance video in the store to determine who had dropped the boxes off. Then they watched video from the parking lot to find out the number on their license plate. Then they turned to the police to track down the owners’ address. The couple were “shocked” and “aghast” when they discovered how much money they had left behind, and gave the employee a handsome reward. People often perform unexpected acts of kindness for others. In the newspaper or online, find and closely read a story about a person who has done this. Use what you read to brainstorm a short documentary film showing the act of kindness and the impact it had on the person who received it. Write an outline for your film, including images you would use. Give it an eye-catching title that would make people want to watch it.

Common Core State Standards: Writing narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events; conducting short research projects that build knowledge about a topic.